Water Contamination and Mining, Biggest Challenges for New Peruvian Environmental Ministry

(Image: Andina news agency) During his first week as Peru's first ever Environmental Minister, Antonio Brack spoke to the press and referred to the Ministry's challenges and the country's environmental problems.

"Our first issue is water contamination, specially due to the dumping of sewage water into rivers, the sea and lakes," said the Minister according to EFE, pointing to the mining industry and iron and steel sectors as part of the problem. "Small scale informal mining is spreading like cancer. There's an estimated 100 thousand miners that use cyanide and mercury, and don't carry on any environmental studies or pay taxes," he added. Brack also said dealing with environmental problems is going to cost Peru up to 400 million dollars.Peru's Environmental Ministry was officially launched during the Fifth Eropean Union-Latin American and the Caribbean Summit that took place in Lima two weeks ago. Its creation had been announced by president Alan Garcia last December.

According to Reuters, it responded to requirements from the United States before signing a free trade agreement with Peru and to the growing concern about environmental issues around the world. The chosen Minister, Brack, is a 67 year-old well known environmentalist and investigator.

Reuters also informed the creation of the environmental Ministry was not welcomed by some investors, as its functions may interfere with projects related to the mining and agriculture sectors.

However, Brack was careful in his declarations and did not call to confrontations. "I'm not looking to get against anyone. I want to talk, agree and seek what's best for the country in the long-term," he said. "There are many civilians who say they don't want to sit with businessmen, and many businessmen who don't want to sit with civilians. Also people in the State who say they don't want to have anything to do with NGOs. I say we have to sit and reach to agreements," explained the Minister.

Despite its friendly speech, Brack did not hesitate in pointing fingers. EFE news agency informed the Minister said that reverting the consequences of 1800 environmental liabilities from companies in the country will cost the State between 200 and 400 million dollars. And he brought as example the city of La Oroya, one of the most contaminated in the world, where Doe Run operates the biggest mining complex of central Peru.

According to Peru.com, the Minister also said they will apply drastic penalties to those who threat the environment: the organism is proposing modifications to the Penalty Code to establish up to jail punishments against people who are found guilty of an environmental crime.

Additionally, Brack said the Ministry will have to deal with 11 thousand tons of solid waste without treatment that are created every day in the country, the air contamination (caused by vehicles that run on fuel with high sulfur levels), and deforestation, which has taken 10 million hectares from the Amazon woods in the XX century.

On the other hand, Brack recalled that Peru is a key actor in the climate change politics and carbon trade, as with its 63 million hectares of wood it can offset 15000 million tons of the gas. "Peru has more than 103 projects for carbon trading that will involve investments for 5800 million dollars in the next years," he said.

On an international level, according to El Comercio newspaper, the Ministry will seek the implementation of over 30 international treaties and agreements the country has subscribed to.

Peru's Environmental Ministry will be fully operational next January. Other organisms that will be part of it are the National Service for Meteorology and Hydrography, the Peruvian Geophysics Institute, the National Protected Areas Service, the Environmental Evaluation and Inspection organism, and the Peruvian Amazon Investigation Institute.

Sources:
Environment Ministry Launches Confronting Water Contamination (EFE via Terra, in Spanish)
::Peru will consider investors and society for environmental protection measures (Reuters, in Spanish)
Antonio Brack Egg Wikipedia (in Spanish)
::Peru announces jail penalties for those who attempt to damage the environment (Peru.com, in Spanish
::Peru looses 8000 million soles a year in poor environmental action (El Comercio, in Spanish)

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